TOLT #82 – A Call to Open

I hope that this post finds you well and safe wherever you are. I have taken a serious backseat in the last couple of months. I didn’t want to write about my coronavirus day to day or my negative opinions on how our country is acting around this international pandemic. I didn’t want to turn my blog political or have it just be a journal of the monotony that is quarantine life.

Instead, I put my head down and focused on the two main objectives I have had these past two months:

  • Finish the semester for my students
  • Keep homeschooling and life at home as normal as possible for my kids

I have not succeeded at the level I had hoped for either, but this week is finals week, so objective one is coming to an end. Other things in my life are coming to an end as well, but I’m not ready to write about that at this moment.

This morning I didn’t have to grade at 6am. I still got up at 6am and did my normal, go to the bathroom, check my phone, head upstairs. I spent a few minutes with my oldest who always wakes up early. I snuggled with my youngest when he found his way upstairs. I didn’t open the computer or respond to emails. We had breakfast and then I did something I haven’t done in FOREVER! I went upstairs and did yoga and meditated.

A few times over this at home period I have done yoga to film videos for my class. At one point I was trying to do some simple poses each day for gut health because my whole body is off at this moment. But, to be honest, I have abandoned a lot of my training. Life has taken many different turns for me and I have sacrificed some of the things that keep me most centered.

Today I chose differently. I did this video from Erin Motz at Bad Yogi:

As I was doing pigeon pose on the right side I noticed something unusual…..I couldn’t lay forward in the pose. I didn’t hurt, but felt trapped when I closed my body forward. It was as if I couldn’t breathe. So, I opened up the body and pushed it toward a backbend….not much of one, but one all the same. As I was doing it I realized that it was helping my heart chakra immensely. I was feeling open and free for the first time in a long time. So, when pigeon came up on the left side, I was surprised that I could do some of the fold, but also how great it felt to backbend and be open for a few breaths there. I usually ONLY love to fold forward in pigeon.

Later in my practice, as we were doing seated forward fold, Erin said something profound to me. She said to focus today on the feeling of the pose and not necessarily on how it looks. Right now I am in the process of making my life feel good; no matter how that’s going to look to the rest of the world…..

Namaste

And Then March Happened

Sixteen days ago I was Thinking Out Loud about how excited I was to be on Spring Break and getting time to recover from bronchitis and get back to life as usual. But, we all know how that has turned out. So, now I am sitting here on a Saturday evening prepping for my first week of teaching online and my second week of homeschooling. We are all healthy and somewhat happy at our house, but mostly just thankful.

Choosing Peace Instead of Panic

I saw an interview the other day with a minister in Italy who is American. She and her husband and their two children are in the lock down there. She said something really profound, that they’re “…choosing peace over panic…”. I loved that saying so much that I have been using it as a personal mantra this week. I have not panicked when:

  • I learned that I would be teaching online for the WHOLE rest of the semester
  • I realized that my kids may not go back to school this school year
  • I gave up on the hope of completing my half marathon this spring
  • Technology fails have happened
  • We made a beautiful dinner and then the kids only ate half of it
  • All of the toilet paper disappeared from stores
  • The school science experiment called for heavy whipping cream and all I could find was half and half
  • I heard my neighbor outside on the phone which seemed like she’s talking to a doctor…..

Adjusting to Temporary Normal

I am thankful that my kids and I are adjusting to this temporary normal quite well. We have talked about what is going on, why it’s not time to panic, why we are staying home and how we don’t know what comes next. We’ve talked about what everyone needs and created a way to communicate that is factual but not scary. Emphasizing the reality and severity of the situation, but not over dramatizing it.

Our temporary normal means that right now we can go out in our backyard and play, we can video chat with our family, we can watch a little more tv, we can cook more food and bake more things because we’re home more. Our temporary normal means that the kids don’t have to go to the grocery store any more and that we have more time in our day because we’re not traveling around town. Our temporary normal means no play dates and no baseball practices and no trivia nites out. Our temporary normal is just that….temporary.

Maintaining a Schedule

One of the things I’ve learned over the years is that schedule is key. It’s key for me completing my work, maintaining my fitness, and when I keep a blog writing schedule, it’s key to that success as well. So, even though it’s only been a week so far, we’re maintaining bed time and get up time. We start homeschooling at 815am and take snack and lunch and recess and finish school around 3pm. We’re making up “specials” work. And this coming week, when my students “come back to class”, I will be holding a Zoom meeting for each course section at regular class time to start to create some kind of consistency for them.

A tiny Bit of Anger

I have to admit that things aren’t all unicorns and rainbows over here. Life is real and I have a little bit of anger about this situation. The things I’m angriest about are those who are judging others. I have written about this topic before (see here). I just can’t stand people who can’t respect other people’s choices.

Two areas that have irked me are people who are upset with others who are wearing masks. While I believe that the masks should be reserved for those who need it and especially medical personnel, I can’t stop you from wearing your mask. I don’t know who you are or what your situation is. I am not judging you and I won’t; but I am sure as hell judging those who “can’t stand you wearing your mask”. UGH!

The second area that has rubbed me the wrong way is people demanding free things. Look, it is WONDERFUL (in my opinion) that the utility companies have canceled disconnections and that internet providers are offering connections for students who need it to maintain school, but people…..these people need to get paid sometime too. I get it. We’re all under a lot of stress right now. Some of you may not have income at this time, some of you are suffering from anxiety of all sorts. I hear you, I see you, I feel you. However, that’s no reason to deserve something for nothing.

I guess this area hits hard for me because my brother works for a utility company. He is still out there doing his job with the mask, gloves, and hand sanitizer that his company gave him to protect himself. Does he not deserve a pay check too? So, when your disconnection happens in a few more months when all of this lifts and you can’t pay your bill because you didn’t work, I AM SORRY and I hope that there is a way for you to find the assistance that you need to get back on your feet. However, I don’t think that the utility companies shouldn’t charge during this time. They need to pay their employees who went in to work and came into your homes and provided you with the service that you needed to make it through this time…..however long it may be.

YOGA

In all of this YOGA keeps floating into my mind…..

Yoga means to yoke, join, or unite. It’s what we all need right now; to come together while staying apart.

Check out this Coping Calendar from Action for Happiness:

Colorful calendar from Action for Happiness with daily tips for how to cope with this public health crisis

One of the first things it suggests is to make a plan for how to stay calm and connected. So, here’s my plan:

  • Keep going as I am while following all of the guidance and rules out there right now
  • Keep active and start retraining for my half marathon which may not happen in 2020 depending on how things turn out
  • Keep in contact with my friends and family via text and video chats and phone calls at least once a week
  • Try to get back to this blog because someday it will serve as a record for how we all came through this…..together

I sincerely hope that you and all of yours are safe and well during this time of uncertainty. Keep checking back in as I hope to have more videos of yoga practice, fitness in the home, and ideas for keeping ourselves together throughout all of this!

Namaste

Fave Reads Friday #16 – Summer Reading in Full Swing

Today is the first day of the Summer Reading Program at our local library. They’re doing a big kickoff party tomorrow that we’re going to, but today is the “OFFICIAL” start date. My kids got out of school last week though, so we’ve already been reading. They’re working on the Mensa for Kids’ Excellence in Reading List for K-3rd grade as it encompasses their current reading levels and ages. I’m working my way through the list of books I’ve “saved for later” at the library.

So far I’ve finished three books since I finished teaching for the semester…..

Continue reading “Fave Reads Friday #16 – Summer Reading in Full Swing”

Worried About my Legs

I just sat down to write this and realized it’s been over 11 months since I did a travel post on my blog. I used to LOVE writing about the different places I went to teach…..I’m not sure why I haven’t done more of it this year, but this has been a hard year for me. Even though this isn’t officially a travel post, this weekend I’m in St. Petersburg, Florida teaching a NETA PT workshop at USFSP….which is a MOUTHFUL! It’s going well so far (as usual), but I am sort of sad to be here. See, I LOVE fall and it just started to get fall-like at my house at the end of this week. I know it’s a little late, but I live in the South. So, what did I do? I went further south and it’s like summer here…..or what summer would be like in Iowa and not North Carolina.

One of my birthday presents to myself – CEP Ultralight Compression Socks for Running. Bought on Amazon/Sold by Pike to Peak

I had intended to do a five mile run after teaching today, but the loop I chose was less than 3 miles and the heat and humidity at 5pm was still too much for me to do another loop. I’d been standing all day in my compression socks to try and help out some seriously stiff calves (and they did), but my legs just seemed done while I was out running. My pace wasn’t anything to brag about either. 10:30/mile! I feel like my running has come to a standstill at the moment. I am looking for a way to push it back forward without injuring myself. All this tiredness in my legs and the shin splints etc has me thinking about the care of my legs more.

I keep hearing all of these advertisements on the radio about vein disease. I’m starting to wonder if it’s a real thing for me. See, my grandmother and my mom have these really nasty veins in their legs. They’re all big and blue and knotty looking. My grandmother has even had weepy veins and all kinds of sclerotherapy. A ton of people in my family wear compression socks (and not the sporty kind like I now have). My mom is not yet to that stage, but I think it’s in her future. She’s a nurse and takes care of long-term care patients. She’s practically a wound guru at this point and knows a lot about how to treat the vein issues my grandmother has, so I’m not worried about how she will care for them when it’s her turn. I’m worried that I will also have a turn.

I have been Googling vein disease photos because I have this pretty purple spot on my left outer thigh that’s been there as long as I can remember. It’s spidery veins, but over the years they’ve become more palpable. When you look at the pictures online I’m somewhere between stage 1 (still closer to that end) and stage 2 of the images of vein disease. My legs feel heavier as I run these days and I’m not sure how much of that is psychological and how much is physiological? One of the treatments suggested is compression socks and now that I have a pair I plan to get as much use out of them as possible. Already they’ve helped me get back into running without pain in my shins/ankles and run consistently further than I was before they arrived. I guess part of this will be a wait and see effort on my part.

Do you have leg pain/fatigue?

Do you wear compression socks to run?

Do you have a family history of vein disease?

TOLT #76 – Modeling

Well, it’s Thursday and I still haven’t finished How We Live Our Yoga, but I did start to find some anecdotes that spoke to me. Maybe the back portion of the book is meant to be the best so that if you actually stick with it it will be worth the time?

There was one passage by Judith Hanson Lasater in which she talks about how her yoga changes over the years and about being a “Swami Mommy” As my youngest is starting Kindergarten on Monday and I move into the next phase of my own life, I realize why my kids need me to do my yoga just as much as I need it. They need me to be patient and ever evolving along with them. My life is changing and so is theirs. They also need a mom who is flexible both mentally, emotionally, and physically. I need to grow and change and listen and able to keep up. Continue reading “TOLT #76 – Modeling”

How We Live Our Yoga

So, I’m reading this book called How We Live Our Yoga which is edited by Valerie Jeremijenko. I picked it up a few weeks ago because it’s been on my reading list at the library for some time now. But, honestly it’s not been that enjoyable. The stories are supposed to be about teacher and practioners’ journey into yoga, but they haven’t been inspiring to me. I haven’t learned anything. So, I didn’t bother saving this book for a Fave Reads Friday post. I’m tempted to give it up altogether, but I’ve only got 70 pages left. So, I will finish it out.

Today was my first yoga class in awhile. I’m back at CFCC and sooooo entirely thrilled about it! I had a few bumps in the road today because I haven’t been there in a year and I forgot to do a few things in prep for the semester. There was the usual cleaning up of the storage closet (aka moving Brazilian Ju Jitsu Club’s stuff out of my way), setting up mats (forgot the cleaning wipes and am missing mats and and blocks), and the awkward quiet as students filter in to my insanely warm room (either I sweat a lot more now or it’s just that I forgot to put in the work order for the temp to be low). But I got through two classes and I had a few smiles by the time everyone left. Continue reading “How We Live Our Yoga”

Meditation Monday #44 – How to Meditate: The 5 Koshas (Anandamaya)

We are at the deepest or most subtle layer of your Koshas as we enter our final post on this topic (for now). The Anandamaya layer is often called the blissful layer or sheath; however, the bliss doesn’t necessarily mean a feeling of happiness, but rather a feeling of wholeness. This is sometimes referred to as the spiritual self or the true self…..almost like your secret identity that no one else can see unless you let them.

I wonder……how many of you live in your Anandamaya layer? Can you truly be your complete self? Your true self? Without reservation?

I know that I have moments when this is true for me. Pacheco asks the following questions:

  • How am I the hero of my own journey?
  • How am I following my bliss?

I think that at this point in my life, with my work, my kids, my training, and this blog I am as much the hero of my own journey as I have ever been. Am I perfect? Not by a long shot. There is so much more I wish I could do with my life; I plan to do with my life; I long to do with my life. There is a standard I have not yet reached. But, I am more aware of what each of that means at this point and am at a point of great understanding that the power to achieve or fail at this is within me and my ability to connect with others. I am following my bliss….I may not have caught up to it yet, but I’m still following along.

Pacheco also asks:

  • What is one act of spiritual generosity (small or large) that I can do for someone else?

In a world in which we are always looking for what will make us happy, we often forget to be of service to others. This is why I love to teach. I feel like I am sharing something that makes me feel so whole, so complete, so blissful with others while also giving a gift to myself. I hope that by reading this post you will consider what would make you truly whole in life and then start pursuing it. That by doing that you will consider the great gifts that you have to serve others. That by serving others you show them a way to make themselves be the hero of their own journey. And, that through all of this we create a world in which it’s no longer scary to live in the Anandamaya layer.

Over to you…..

Fave Reads Friday #10.2 – Meritocracy and other Made Up Words

Have you ever heard that word Meritocracy? Did you know that it’s not a real word? More of the many bits of information that I learned while reading The Big Test by Nicholas Lemann.

The word meritocracy was created by Michael Young in his 1958 work titled The Rise of Meritocracy. His work was meant as a satirical piece to pick apart  a system in which children, from a young age, are chosen for their role in society (think something like Giver or Divergent) and that a chosen few are meant to rule based on MERIT; which in this case is determined by intelligence. The word meritocracy is a combination of two unrelated root words, merit a Latin word and cracy (kratos) a Greek word. It is roughly translated to mean that through your worth your are given power.

The idea behind a meritocratic society is that through standardized testing we could best choose who would be successful at what skill and then guide our citizens toward that lot in life so as to be the most productive society in existence. This is what Lemann writes about in The Big Test. However, the main idea gets twisted over time and the use of these standardize tests also gets twisted.

Think about this……when I was in Kindergarten I was given an IQ test which pushed me into the talented and gifted program at my elementary school. The reliability and validity of such tests are often highly debated, but essentially I was chosen. I was bored in traditional school, but never really taught that being able to learn quickly and test well is not the same thing as having true merit. I was involved in talented and gifted programs through 8th grade, breezing through on good test scores. Upon reaching high school I was put on the advanced track for science, math, and language arts. I attempted the advanced track for social science (history) and language, but ended up dropping out of each. When I was in 7th grade I began taking the SAT and ACT exams as part of a program that offered summer camps to students identified as talented and gifted. I scored so well that I went to a camp and studied exercise physiology and biomechanics one summer and genetics in the summer between 8th and 9th grades.

My high school emphasized involvement and I was on sports teams, involved in debate, the lit mag, the yearbook, cultural awareness groups, volunteering at my elementary school and church, and holding part time jobs. I did all that I could on a limited budget and without true guidance as to what any of it meant.

Upon graduating high school, with alright grades and high test scores, I received zero scholarship offers and, because my family was not well off, I attended a state school and proceeded to do fair. I didn’t know how to study and lacked the discipline to perform homework to the fullest. Why? Because I’d always tested well which had been enough to get by in all schooling up until college. I spent time testing out this and that and avoided things that were too challenging or required too much work on my part as far as classes went. I was going to be a lifeguard instructor at one point, but decided that I didn’t have the time. I had a million part time jobs and didn’t stick with any of them very long. I got married and moved around.

In the last couple of years of my undergraduate programs I started to perform better in school and finished with a fairly decent GPA. I eventually became certified as a Personal Trainer and, after moving around a bit more, decided to take a stab at graduate school. (Mostly because a graduate degree “guaranteed” a better job) I studied for about a week and took the GRE; doing well enough to get into graduate school. This attempt at school was much of the same as college…..fair. But, fair is not good enough for graduate school.

I left graduate school for awhile at the end of my marriage and then attempted an MBA. I didn’t want to have to take the GMAT, so I dropped that as well. I eventually ended up at another graduate school where I flourished academically and where my interest in a lot of different things started to grow. I have always though of my journey to where I am today as more linear than it was. I had always considered myself a good student. But, after reading Lemann’s book and considering the true meritocracy I started to really question my own journey.

Last week Evangeline commented about about the idea of two different students applying to college:

This is fascinating. After taking the SAT and a few state mandated standardized tests, the whole system has piqued my interest. The idea of a number playing such a significant role in my future seems a little scary. I know colleges say they look at applicants holistically, but in real life, if person A has a perfect SAT score and person B has an average score, we know who’s getting accepted. I’ll definitely be adding this to my reading list. Thanks for sharing!

Which of these two students has merit? Who should we give the power to? How would you decide?

These are all questions that have been going through my head regarding myself, my children, and the world around us since reading Lemann’s book. How should we decide who goes to college? What is college for? Who should be running our country? What is merit?

Lemann ends his book with many of the same questions and I’m not sure I have the answers. All I know is that being selected at age 5 or 6 did nothing to make me the type of societal member that was going to contribute highly to significant causes….life has done more of that to me than anything…..yoga has done even more. Being identified as having the ability to learn and learn quickly didn’t help me to be successful because there was no guidance in the process. I wrote this post two and a half years ago about education:

TOLT: Book Reviews and The Great Education Debate

in which I talk about a book by Amanda Ripley and the future education of my own children. My children are now starting school (both of them) and we’re not in a traditional school. There is testing to help the teachers understand how the students are progressing, but the schools they go to also focus on grace and courtesy and a universal understanding of respect for yourself, your community, and your environment. These are the types of merits I think we should be basing our decisions on:

  • How kind are you?
  • How much have you done for the good of others?
  • Are you a litter bug?
  • Can you think bigger than yourself?

Maybe if we considered some of these questions before voting our government would look different at all levels. Maybe if we considered some of these questions for ourselves our lives and communities would look different…..

What is meritorious to you?

Fave Reads Friday #10.1 – Testing, Testing….

Have you ever read a kind of older book and when it was finished desperately wished there was a follow up book? I HATE when that happens and it just did again recently when I finished The Big Test: The Secret History of the American Meritocracy by Nicholas Lemann.

The book is about how standardized testing came about in this country and how much of a scam it is. It takes you through the development of standardized tests, affirmative action, and the whole idea of how we decide (in this country) who gets to go to college. Have you ever wondered about why you took the SAT and/or ACT? Did you ever wonder why some schools accepted one test and not the other? How the scores were calculated? Why it costs so much to apply to college? Why certain schools were free to residents?

This book was published in 1999; ironically the year I graduated from high school and entered college. I wish that someone had given it to me then….

The basic reason that I wanted to review this book for you (even though it has nothing to do with fitness or yoga) is to make you consider the question for the weekend of WHY?

Why do I do the things I do? Why is my life the way that it is? Why?

And in addition to Why, HOW?

How much control do I have over my life? How much control is necessary and how much am I willing to allow others to make decisions for me?

The Why and How questions of the world can be great for guiding you toward your true self and enlightenment. They can also make you want to stand up and shout, THIS IS NOT RIGHT!

At one point in my life I was very proud of my ACT/SAT scores despite my performance on “grades” in high school. I’ve always been a good test taker. I have been lack in commitment to completing tasks like homework. This transferred over into my college career and is shown in my procrastination on this blog. What if someone had taken the time to tell me that test scores were not the best predictor of how well I’d do in college? What if I cared more about actually learning as much in my high school days as I do now? What if I could guide my children down a better path with less focus on testing and more focus on really learning (not memorization) and critical thinking? What if there were a whole generation of kids that got that guidance?

I encourage you to consider these questions this weekend and let me know what your thoughts are. There is a part two to this post….see you next Friday!